OCEANSIDE — A new coat of yellow paint, two murals, and an information sign are causing people to stop and look at the “Top Gun” house on Pacific Street.
The Queen Anne Victorian beach cottage, built in 1887, had become weatherworn over the years.
Now murals by artist Paul Knebels and signage installed on Feb. 12 alert people to its historical significance.
“It’s never been off our radar list,” Kristi Hawthorne, president of the Oceanside Historical Society, said.
The house was built by Dr. Henry Graves and is known in history circles as the Graves House. Its distinct architecture includes gingerbread features and an ornate chimney.
It is considered the best last-standing Victorian of its era.
Part of its historical merit comes from it remaining in its original location.
“A folk Victorian is absolutely rare by the beach,” John Daley, vice president of the Oceanside Historical Society, said.
The house is more widely recognized for being featured in the 1986 “Top Gun” movie starring Tom Cruise and is fondly called the “Top Gun house.”
Future plans are to restore the house after construction for a $209 million luxury hotel development begins on the site where the house stands.
As part of the development project SD Malkin Properties will temporarily move the house to trench out space for underground parking. Then the house will be restored for adapted reuse by the developer, relocated on the site and used as a shop and tourist attraction.
Since the hotel project was approved before Gov. Jerry Brown disbanded city redevelopment agencies, the timeline for building is uncertain.
Daley said an optimistic date for construction to begin is October.
To maintain the house’s historical integrity its architectural features will remain intact and preservation efforts will match the original exterior features and interior trim. The porch will be redone and flooring will be restored to original wood.
“It will be restored to its closest historical state,” Hawthorne said.
The Oceanside Historical Society and SOHO (Save our Heritage Organisation, spelled with a Victorian “s”) have been working to preserve the house for quite some time.
“It’s the last of its kind,” Bruce Coons, SOHO executive director, said. “We worked with the city and developer to explain its historical significance. At one time it was thought of bulldozing it. We’re excited they’re restoring it.”
Thanks to the groups’ efforts the Graves House is on the national register of historic buildings, which protects it under secretary of the interior’s standards for historical preservation.
“Architecture influences our lives and adds to our quality of life,” Coons said. “It’s hard to explain a connection. You don’t realize something until it’s gone.”
Speculations are the 500-square-foot house will be used as a coffee house, gift store, or ice cream shop once restoration is completed.